Oftentimes in my consultations, I hear the refrain, “I am uncertain as to what is going to happen, so I do not know what I should do.” This comment is usually in reference to either the client’s own personal situation, such as a move or a family conflict, but it may be in response to legal or geopolitical uncertainty.
The question is then, how do we prepare an estate plan in times of uncertainty? The answer is easy, we plan the same way we always do.
Let’s take a look at a few examples: Bill and Mary are approaching retirement age. They do not have any estate planning documents completed. They are considering leaving Maryland in retirement in approximately 3-5 years. These plans are not detailed, but simply a desire to relocate. Should they begin the estate planning process now? Absolutely! A lot can happen in 3-5 years and simply because there is an uncertain move that is potentially occurring, that does not negate the need for planning for both incapacity and death. If there is something catastrophic before or even after Bill and Mary move, their estate will be vulnerable to unnecessary fees, taxes, and family conflict. Even if Bill and Mary create their plan and end up moving in 3-5 years, many estate plans will work from state to state. Their estate planning attorney should be able to refer them to a like-minded estate planning attorney that can amend or update their plan upon relocating if needed. By not planning Bill and Mary remain vulnerable if something were to happen.
Let’s look at an example of how to plan in a period of economic or geopolitical uncertainty. Steve and Gloria pay very close attention to the news. They see indicators of an economic recession. They are also concerned about the state legislature changing the laws as they relate to taxes. This uncertainty given the global economic outlook as well as potential changes in the law have prompted Steve and Gloria to decide to put off their estate plan. Should they continue to wait until things have settled down? Absolutely not! Regardless of whether there is economic uncertainty, the necessity of estate planning remains. If something catastrophic happens in Steve and Gloria’s lives, they will have no plan in place to dictate who can manage their affairs and who will inherit from them. Steve and Gloria also have no control over the legislature. It is critical that Steve and Gloria work with an estate planning attorney that is committed to drafting documents with a high level of flexibility as well as committed to maintaining contact with their clients to ensure that their plan works over time.
Whether you are unsure about your own future, the future of politics or the economy, the answer is clear. It is never a bad time to start your estate planning. Often the concerns that a person has are not related to these factors at all, but they are concerns related to providing a legacy for family. Contact your estate planning attorney today to get started on your plan.